Category Archives: Articles

Helping Your Child between ABM Lessons

Parents can teach “I Wonder” to help their children Learn.

Today I was working with a parent who gave me the opportunity to explain why we don’t ask our kids to “fix” things like their turned in foot, their sitting position, etc.

Parents need to be able guide their children and find solutions when they know that something is not going in the right direction. That’s our job, right? It seems intuitive to just ask your child to try not to turn in their foot. It might even look successful if they understand what your are asking. What could be negative about that?

I gave a couple of examples of what will occur.

Picture a child slouching at the table. Mom wants to guide her child to be upright and strong. Strong people do not have their shoulders forward so she says “put your shoulders back”. If the child fixes themselves this way, a new odd posture is formed that is about having shoulders back, not about being tall and upright. Tall and upright are an internal feeling. Shoulders going back out of context because of an external instruction ruins posture that is based on YOUR brain figuring out what feeling tall looks like.

Try this yourself. Slouch, and without changing your spine, pelvis, or head, follow the instruction to put your shoulders back. Why would anyone do this? I have seen elderly people walking down the street this way. They did not choose it. Well, what you experienced is an exaggeration of the response that people have to external ‘fixing” when you “put your shoulders back”. The result you felt is a lot of extra work. A child would probably not hold the rest of themselves extremely still while putting shoulders back, but the overriding of their own brain’s solution still happens.  Over time it being able to feel recedes in the face of so much external instruction and pressure.

I have seen the same dynamic in dance instruction. Most people have seen video of Mikhail Baryshnikov flying through the air effortlessly. He has mastered the ability to leap high in the air across the stage looking elegant and graceful. He could not have done this by following someone else’s instruction about how to move. He has to have the internal feeling of lightness and balance of efforts throughout his body and actions. There are many many dance teachers and varying levels of training of these instructors. Some dance instructors teach their students to focus on building the skill of feeling internally what they are doing. Those are fortunate students who are building awareness of themselves. Others, like the mom who thought she had the solution that would make her child “look” tall and strong, teach their students to copy a look. “Lift your chest” “Turn out your leg”, etc. Their students will be busy checking to see if they have followed external instructions rather than developing the feeling needed to fly like Mikhail Baryshnikov.

So the child told to make sure their foot doesn’t “turn in” will find a solution in a part of themselves that they can control. Their internal voice takes on the mother role overriding their natural solutions. They will add another layer of muscle contraction over what they are already doing to try to find stability. Their foot might look more straight forward. The concern is how are they achieving that aim?

Going back to the dancer example. Ballet dancers are encouraged to “turn out” their pointed foot. This is a look that occurs from the use of the low back and hip when someone is well organized for the dance movements. That means they are doing big power with big muscles, and distributing the work of their action over their entire body. Some teachers recognize this and train their students well. Others seek to achieve the “look” of turn out by focusing on the foot. The student in the second case usually tries to comply by strongly contracting the muscles of their lower leg in a fixed position that rotates their foot. I have worked with many dancers with rock solid muscles in this area of their leg. They never stop contracting those muscles because the contraction is not connected to an internal feeling of doing a certain action. Dancing is movement distributed over the entire self to feel and look easy and effortless. To have one part held rigidly contracted like this is going to be very limiting.

The child turning their foot in is doing the best organization they can for the information they have available to them. More information is needed about the shape of their form, the relationships between their parts, and how not to keep muscles chronically contracted and therefore unavailable to help with standing and walking. They need more information and more experience that they can learn from. They have gaps in their knowledge. I hope they have a teacher available to help them learn and understand whatis missing for them. Asking them to try again, practice what they are already doing poorly, or fix the “look”, does not take into account the gap in their knowledge and experience. Maybe they have an Anat Baniel Method teacher, a Feldenkrais teacher, or any other professional who knows this is a learning issue, and knows how to help new learning occur. That will give them new possibilities.

So, what do parents do to be helpful on a daily basis? Sometimes the most important thing is what you DON’T do. It is not worth risking your child’s ability to sense and feel themselves to nag about a body part. Remember, their brain is doing the best that it can with the information that it has. Don’t become the watch dog making your child feel like they are constantly being monitored and corrected. Until learning happens their way of moving is not going to change so reminders will need to occur 24/7. Find that helpful teacher. If you don’t, then be prepared to follow your child into adulthood reminding them to “fix your foot”.  OR they might internalize your voice and a part of their brain will always be telling them they are not doing it well enough, OR they will grow up to rebel against this coercion as an adult. None of these are good solutions.

What CAN you do? This parent I was working with had taken video of their child doing a new skill, running. They did it to enjoy watching it with their child and all of them were very excited that he could now run. When watching the video together the child said – “look how my right foot is not going straight”. Yay for awareness and observation!! They gently suggested if he did it again he might be able to do it with a straighter foot, and he WAS successful according to their measurement. The next video showed the foot straighter. I know that meant he was working with his brain and body to keep his foot straight. He was overriding the solution his system had said was the best and safest. He told himself to ignore those feeling messages and “think” himself into a better foot position.

I suggested that next time they have the opportunity, they acknowledge the foot position. They could ask him some questions to help bring more awareness to how it felt. It might look something like this:

“my right foot is not straight”

“you are right! I see that too” 

“Does your left foot feel different from your right foot when you run? How about when you stand on one foot or hop? How does it feel? Solid? Shaky? Easy? Hard? That is very interesting. Which one do you like the best?” “I WONDER if your right foot could learn to feel more like your left foot?” (assuming he prefers left). They would be making a suggestion that things could change and opening that door in their child’s thinking.

Next, I would suggest doing the running with some variation like stepping onto foot prints, or over a line, or with one brace off and one brace on, running backwards, etc. Any new component will cause the brain to seek a new solution and children see this as fun. It takes away the “success or failure” component. Running in one certain way has become an answer to a problem. It is the solution to “how do I run”. The goal is to wake up the brain to a new challenge and re-open that conversation that has been finished. That is when there will be an opportunity to upgrade. With the new awareness, and hopefully the new information gained in movement lessons, opening the conversation whenever there is an opportunity gives the chance to include the new information between lessons and for improvement to happen.

The same day we discussed how to help their child experiment we had a lot of focus on the difference between “guessing” vs “knowing”. This is a learned concept that every child acquires. It is part of understanding make believe, knowing what is made up and what is truth, becoming an accurate reporter of events, etc. The learning the difference can be a very fun time and the great thing about it is there is no success or failure. When you GLUESS you then check yourself and see was I right or not? It is anticipating what the book will be about based on the cover, or what will happen next in the story, then finding out what really happened. Once you have read the book then you KNOW. 

I pointed out the similarity in these two things, Guessing/Knowing and Re-Opening the Conversation by WONDERING. In both cases you NOTICE DETAILS and you WONDER.  Both take the stress out of being right or wrong, they send the message that curiosity and exploration are the most valuable skills to develop. The focus is not on the final product but on the experience. This is where learning lives, and learning is how we change.

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Why you should care about your child’s B vitamins

not goodOne out of three people may have reduced ability to produce enough methyl enzyme. It’s a very busy enzyme.  Lower producers will be impacted in many ways including inability to get B12 and Folic Acid in to the cells where it is needed.  These Bs are essentials for nerve health.  Children struggling with weakness, fatigue, difficulty holding head up or sitting upright, torticollis, or dystonia might be low on folic acid at the cellular level.  See below for a list of the uses of folic acid in the body.

The solution to not having enough methyl?  Take METHYLATED versions of these vitamins so your body can get them to the cellular level.  Everyone needs their Bs!!!!

Check your vitamins to find out if the Bs are the activated kind!!!

You want to see METHYLcobalamine and Activated Folinic Acid on the label.  Additonal names for the methylated form of folic acid are 5-Methyltetrahydrofolic acid, 5-MTHF, Metafolin or methylfolate.  

Here’s an example of a b-complex with activated folinic acid and methylcobalamine available from Whole Foods – about $20/bottle – Amazon $15/bottle

B ComplexEmerald Laboratories B Healthy – Raw Whole-Food Based Formula with Prebiotics, enzymes and probiotics.

.Link to Amazon site with product description:

http://www.amazon.com/Emerald-Laboratories-Healthy-60-vcaps/dp/B004IP91RQ

The excerpt below is from: http://www.custommedicine.com.au/health-articles/folinic-acid/

A genetic defect called MTHFR gene polymorphism is responsible for dihydrofolate reductase malfunction which prevents the activation of folic acid. A simple blood test (called a MTHFR Gene Test) can determine if you carry this faulty gene and thus are unable to convert folic acid into its active MTHF form. Some researchers believe that up to half of the population may carry this defective gene. Symptoms of this can include weight gain, fatigue and depression. If found to be present it can easily be treated by using folinic acid or better still MTHF.

Folate coenzymes are responsible for the following important metabolic functions:
1) Formation of purines and pyrimidines, which in turn are needed for synthesis of the nucleic acids DNA and RNA. This process allows cell replication to occur and is thus essential. This is especially important during fetal development in the first trimester in preventing birth defects, such as neural tube defects,
2) Formation of heme, the iron-containing protein in hemoglobin. This enables oxygen transport throughout the bodyand thus energy production.
3) Interconversion of the 3-carbon amino acid serine from the 2-carbon amino acid glycine.
4) Formation of the amino acids tyrosine from phenylalanine and glutamic acid from histidine.
5) Methylation of homocysteine into the amino acid methionine. Elevated levels of homocysteine have been implicated in a wide range of health disorders including atherosclerosis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression. In the reconversion of homocysteine to methionine the body uses the methionine to make the important amino acid s-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) which is known to be helpful in cases of depression.
6) Synthesis of choline from ethanolamine,
7) Formation and maturation of red and white blood cells, and
8) Conversion of nicotinamide to N’-methylnicotinamide.

9) The production of certain neurotransmitters such as dopamine, adrenaline and noradrenaline rely on the methylation reaction which is dependant on THF.

10) Energy production also relies on the methylation reaction, and thus MTHF, and a slow rate of methylation has been linked to chronic fatigue.

 

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Brain Gut Connection Part 5

This is Part 5 of the Brain Gut Connection series.  It is my understanding of the impact of nutrition and genetics in children with special needs as explained to me in conversation with Elinor Silverstein.

In previous articles Elinor has detailed how important nutrition and properly functioning metabolism are to everyone’s health.  She has discussed how the gut and the liver work and how dysfunction can impact the brain, CNS, muscle tissues, and other systems of the body due to inflammatory response, inability to eliminate toxins, and/or inability to deliver nutrients to the cells themselves.  

Good nutrition and metabolism are important to any growing child, but children with special needs are more at risk for the issues Elinor has discussed to cascade into severe limitations.  Many doctors and medical professionals are making information available about the impacts of nutrition on children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and similar conditions.  What is less known is the impact on of deficiencies and toxicity for children with Cerebral Palsy, torsion dystopia, Torticollis, and other neuromuscular conditions.  Knowledge of this relationship between movement disorders and the Enteric Nervous System can change the course of a child’s condition.  When the gut calms down and children get the nutrients their bodies need to thrive, improvement is dramatic.

The Viscera
Elinor is a highly skilled Feldenkrais practitioner.  She was trained by Moshe Feldenkrais and was mentored by Gaby Yaron and Ruthy Alon.  Years ago she asked Gaby for advice about her work, “What else can I do to help?”  Gaby responded, “Everything in the body is connected.  People will leave your lesson improved and come back next week crooked because you never talked to the organs and connective tissue in the abdomen.”  To do this Gaby worked very deep in the viscera, but Elinor found that she could put her hands very lightly on the belly and feel something pulling and moving.  

Years later, a well-known physical therapist who Elinor was working with, and is one of the main Upledger teachers, explained to her what she was feeling. While Elinor used Feldenkrais hands and touch, she constantly felt pulls and movement. The PT, showed her the anatomy and physiology of sphincters and connective tissues suspending the organs, and what they were doing while receiving this kind of touch.  A light went on and Elinor moved forward with this in her way of working with her clients. Especially, those in dire need. Slowly, but surely, more and more of the people who came to her practice improved quicker than before. She created lessons to teach them what she was doing and how they could use their movement lessons to help their organs function in synchrony with the rest of their body.  

Sphincters are the ring muscles that function by closing and opening.  The most well known are the gastric-esophageal sphincter where people experience reflux from the stomach to the esophagus, and the anal sphincter that controls the passing of bowel.  We have sphincters in many places throughout the body including around the orbit of the eye, between the liver and the bile ducts etc.  Sphincters in the body are related to each other in a rhythmic way.  Deliberately contracting one sphincter, such as pursing lips, can impact the other ring muscles in the body.  

Elinor explained that some of this understanding of the viscera comes from the work of osteopath and physical therapist, Jean-Pierre Barral, the founder of the Barral Institute.  Also, Ruthy Alon, a masterful Feldenkrais practitioner and founder of “Bones for Life”, was “huge on the sphincter muscles” explained Elinor.  In 1981, Ruthy recommended reading the book “Secret of the Ring Muscles” by Paula Garbourg,  which became a major source of information and inspiration for Elinor.

Spasticity and the Gut
Elinor uses her knowledge of visceral and sphincter functioning through the lense of  Feldenkrais thinking. She incorporates healing the gut, ensuring that nutrition is being delivered to the cells, eliminating toxic build up, decreasing inflammation, making a healthy and viable connection between the enteric and central nervous systems, and always remembers the millions of years of evolution from which we have come.  By using our body in movement we can work with all of these systems as a whole.

We have two nervous systems.  The Central and the Enteric Nervous System.  The Central Nervous System (CNS) is the brain, the spinal cord, and nerves connecting to the tissues of the body that have to do with physical movement.  The Enteric Nervous System (ENS) is  embedded in lining of the gastro-intestinal system (gut).  It has been called our second brain. It includes everything that involves the organs and the viscera and it can operate separately from the brain and the spinal cord.  Working in the mouth is working with the enteric nervous system.  What goes on in the mouth with enzymes and acids goes on in the rest of the enteric nervous system.  

Each nervous system influences the other.  Sitting crooked can affect the gut.  Gut issues can affect posture, tonus and the entire CNS.  When the ENS starts to spasm it trips off the CNS too.  In her work with children with movement disorders Elinor can feel a wave of spasticity originate in the Enteric Nervous System and move its way to the Central Nervous System.   The origin of the spasticity can be the ENS.  

Elinor says, “When I put my hands on their belly and show the viscera how it can function properly the contractions with the arms stop and torsion and twisting of the head, neck, and spine quiet down without even touching the limbs and skeleton.”

HUGE VITAL INFORMATION!!
Kids with CP almost always have gut issues, says Elinor.  She explains, children with hypoxic trauma have experienced oxygen deprivation in both the Central NS and the Enteric NS.  Both systems directly communicate with each other.  You cannot damage one without damaging the other.  The recent concept that we have 2 brains for nervous system control, one in our head and one in our gut, helps us to understand this relationship. The impact of hypoxia to the CNS can appear as damage to parts of the brain that control movement and thinking.  The impact from the same hypoxic event can cause damage to the ENS which will appear as dysfunction of the organs and intestinal tract.  This is why these children seriously suffer from constipation and other dysfunctions of the gut.  A truly fantastic way to take care of the brain is to take care of the gut, states Elinor Silverstein.

In extreme cases Elinor sees the belly in these children become big and bloated, the head and neck arch back, their arms go to the sides, there is excessive sweating, and there can be difficulty breathing. Some part of their nervous system is being triggered because of existing damage in the ENS from the oxygen deprivation.  As a seizure can move through the brain in the Central Nervous System, this same kind of chaos can move through the Enteric Nervous System.  Stress can trigger it.  Hunger can trigger it.  Anything that jolts the system can trigger it.  Elinor says this can be worked with and these children can be helped.  We are teaching them to have tools to self regulate.

In addition to the existing trauma to the ENS that occurred at or near birth, or in utero, there can be all the issues Elinor has discussed in previous articles, such as reduced or non existent vitamin and mineral absorption and wastes being reabsorbed back into the systems and taxing the tissues, the cells of body, and the body’s ability to eliminate waste and toxins.

Elinor Silverstein has shared video of her teachings on Youtube.  Below are some examples with a brief description.  For more videos go to Elinor’s Youtube Channel and browse for her videos about children with special needs.

Example 1 – Dylan – Cerebral Palsy, Seizures

Dylan would improve and be great for a week and then go backwards.  We needed to work with his gut health, said Elinor.  He had very strong cerebral palsy, was hospitalized frequently with seizures..  Eventually, if he regressed he could return to balance with a 30 minute lesson.  Sadly, Dylan recently passed away very quickly from what might have been a flu virus.  Have no doubt he lived a very gracious, happy, and fulfilling life through his young childhood.  Here are short video clips filmed with Elinor Silverstein in which she discusses the things that helped him be a vital little guy.

 


Example 2 – Miles –  Very Important talk – Methylation and the Liver’s ability to detoxify

A short video in which Elinor explains methylation of the liver, and what it means, it’s vital importance, and how to check for MTHFR gene variations. It’s a Simple, simple, simple test for the MTHFR gene variation.  Elinor explains how methylation relates to the FM and how we might approach it.
Recorded on January 6, 2011 using a Flip Video camera.  Video quality is poor, but the content is so valuable Elinor wanted to include it here.

(video coming soon)

Example 3 – Annabelle – Working with metabolic issues 3.1 (part 1 of 3)

If you would like to view a complete lesson with Elinor Silverstein, here is a the first part of a 4 part series of  videos showing one lesson with Annabelle.  You can hear conversations between myself and the parent exploring the ideas about metabolism and it’s impact on the movement disorder in their child.  

Some signs Elinor has mentioned that might indicate your child’s issues with their musculoskeletal system/brain might be connected to their Gut:

  • One eye moving differently than another (alternative issue to strabismus) nutritional deficiency
  • Teeth not erupting and positioning correctly – nutritional issues
  • Eyes showing more white around eyes – strong indication of processing issues
  • Breathing pattern seems to be very quick – erratic – possible nerve tone issues
  • Scratching, itching, skin problems-nutritional issues, especially fatty acid deficiencies
  • Bright pink cheeks, or face suddenly turning red -allergies, possible reaction to food(s),
  • Ears flushing – possible nervous system dysfunction
  • Baby crying from lying on back in stroller in malls but fine on stomach – processing issues – overwhelmed by stimulation from floursecant lights and passing images
  • Babies’ reactions to things nursing moms eat – watch for skin color, eyes, mouth shape, temperament changes
  • Spasticity – issues with the nervous system, and/or with B vitamin deficiency
  • Torticollis – turning of the head to one side with a twist of the spine – B vitamin deficiencies, especially methylated folate.
  • Scoliosis – possible ENS dysfunction
  • Seizures – can indicate CNS and/or ENS (gut) issues
  • Nutritional deficiencies -Can be seen as cravings, issues with skin, hair, behavior, and/or sleep
  • Belly distended – never normal – can be formation of Gas/Wind – swallowed air – reaction to food, sign of inflammation and swelling in the viscera
  • Diarrhea – possibilities: pancreatic enzyme issues, gut bacterial flora not normal, sphincter disregulation
  • Constipation – possibilities:  food sensitivity/allergy, gut flora not normal, issues with mobility and motility of gut intestines and organs, sphincter disregulation

Seeking more information

Here are some of the professionally specialties that help with these areas of health and well being.  Interview the professionals to make sure their specialty or they cover these concerns.  Bring list of your concerns and your child’s symptoms.  

Pediatric Functional Medicine Doctor – Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM)
Naturopath
Homeopath
Pediatric Immunologist
Pediatric Allergist
Metabolic Specialist
Pediatric Nutritionist

Elinor says “An educated parent is a happy parent.  An educated, happy parent makes for a happy and healthy child.  Now that you have some tools for viewing your child more fully, you can use your eyes and know what you see, and what you can do to work with him/her.  This way your child can have a world of possibilities for growth and well-being.  And that is a gift.”

Future articles in this series will focus on the Vagal nerve connection between Gut and Brain, nutritional supplement recommendations for healthy guts, and how to get more information through testing.

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Brain Gut Connection Part 4

This is Part 4 of the Brain Gut Connection series.  It is my understanding of the impact of nutrition and genetics in children with special needs as explained to me in conversation with Elinor Silverstein.

MTHFR 

Elinor is very passionate about is the importance of the Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) enzyme. It is encoded by the MTHFR gene. Variations in this gene were formerly thought to be quite rare but it is now known to be more common. Elinor has had hundreds of people tested for this gene variation and all but 1 have had it. Dr. Allen Green, MD states that 1 in 3 people now have this gene variation. The impact on health and the ability to help people with this variation is huge.

Elinor explains that the methyl enzyme is used in the process of combining folic acid (B9) and methyl ions (one carbon bound to three hydrogen atoms) into L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate (L-5-MTHF) the metabolically active form of folic acid. Deficiency in activated folate has been implicated in heart disease, difficulty issues with pregnancy and fetal development, difficulty carrying pregnancy to term, movement disorders, and even high blood pressure in slender healthy people who should not have high b.p., brain fog and others.

In addition, Elinor indicates the inability to convert methyl is tied directly to many other health issues including metabolism of nutrients and the detoxification process. When these processes are disrupted it has a big impact on health in the short term or long term as deficiencies and toxic load increase over time.

B12

B12 is essential for healthy nerve cells. It works with Folic acid to build the genetic materials of all cells, maintains healthy cell function and development, and assists in the production of enzymes. B12 is a key micronutrient that supports immunity and lymphocyte function. Elinor notes that it is important for people to know that when a senior citizen does not receive the methylated form of B12 there are often signs of serious neuropathy in the legs and feet, fuzziness in the head or confusion, or even senior depression, and versions of dimentia associated with it. All this is directly tied in to the fact that a very crucial nutrient, B12, is not getting to the central nervous system and to the brain.

Elinor explains that there are two forms of B12 – methylcobalamin and cyanocobalamin. She says that a person with the MTHFR gene often might not utilize B12 well, and if they take the vitamin supplement in the form of cyanocobalamin it will only make the blood levels go up, but not actually get utilized by the cells. The most usable form in these cases is the methylcobalamin form. It can be used in the cells and transported to the brain and nerves very easily which leads to healthy brain functioning and active nerves all the way down to the legs and feet. She talks more about this in more detail for nerve health.

Elinor says, “You just don’t want such large doses floating around not going everywhere they are needed after many shots (of cyanocobalamin). I know, my mother felt better after the first injection of cyano– but after several injections her blood levels were crazy high, because they were not completely being utilized and the doctor wanted to stop her injections. I told him that if you stop, she will not feel well again. She needed methylcobalamin instead, and she would feel as good, AND the levels would stay good, healthy and normal, because they would be UTILIZED in every way they should be. Sooooo AWESOME, Yea!!!”

NOTE: Elinor recommends everyone supplement B12. ”Yes, everyone should. It’s so cheap, and so easy to do. I give myself a shot every month just under the skin with methylcobalamin. Both my sons do, and so does my mother.” ”Live long and prosper, and take your methyl B-12!”

Toxic Load

Elinor explains there are 3 stages for detoxification in our bodies. We take in toxins from our environment through what we eat, breath, drink and have skin exposure to. Stage 1 these toxins are absorbed by the liver. Stage 2 the toxins combine with with L-5-MTHF to then send the toxins to be excreted. Stage 3 is excretion, primarily through the kidneys as urine and intestines as stool. If there is not enough active folic acid to do the toxin conversion the liver pushes the extra toxins out to the blood stream where they deposit in blood vessels, organs, muscles, tissues, the brain, and the peripheral nervous system.

Elinor, herself, gets tested every two years to measure her body load of heavy metals using a urine challenge test. The test for heavy metals uses Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA), a chelating agent. It is most reliable to administer the EDTA by IV in your doctors office because it does not depend on the EDTA passing out of the intestine as an oral dose does. And, it is not expensive.

The body load of heavy metals and other toxins can get progressively worse. Factors such as vaccines or anesthesia can compound the problem by increasing the demand on the liver to do its job. People with the MTHFR gene variation will usually have difficulty metabolizing anesthetics. They may have more difficulty waking up and may be throw up until they start to recover from the toxic overload.

An inexpensive blood test can identify whether this gene variation might be an issue for you or your family member. If one finds they have the variation here are a few things you can do to augment this methylation process. Elinor says, ”Take sublingual B12 daily, however, I found for myself that the shot every few weeks works much better. Also, eat sulfuric foods like fermented cabbage and kimchi. You can also add kale, broccoli, and other good dark greens that contain sulfuric compounds. I really love garlic and onions. All of these foods are sulfuric in nature which helps in addition to B12 and activated Folate to make the methylation process. How awesome it truly is when our foods can be our medicine!”

Future articles willI be about spasticity in the gut and visceral work, nerve health, and constipation and seizures recommendations for nutrient supplementation. 

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Brain Gut Connection Part 3

This is Part 3 of the Brain Gut Connection series.  It is my understanding of the impact of nutrition and genetics in children with special needs as explained to me in conversation with Elinor Silverstein.  

The Wheat Story – 1978

I don’t think many know this story about gluten.  In 1978 and 1979, Elinor was working in the lab at Cal Poly as she studied towards her degrees.  Representatives from Monsanto came in with a special request.  

Elinor explained that plants have a strong idea of personal space.  When they start to encroach on each other they stop bearing fruit in that direction.  They need a certain amount of spacing in order for each plant to have the highest possible yield.  

So if there is a huge demand for wheat – and you want to increase production on the land – what do you do?  Monsanto asked the scientists to make it possible to grow more wheat on each acre of land.  The researchers were able to do this by altering the genetics of the wheat enough that it no longer had personal space issues.  Plants could intertwine and snuggle up to each other and they would still produce like mad.  

The scientist warned Monsanto that there were side affects of this alteration.  The amount of gluten in each grain was increased 4 fold. (my apologies this was previously reported as to the 4th power.  Corrected 6/15/2013)  This is a HUGE increase in the amount of gluten in each grain.  Monsanto was told that there was no way of knowing what the impact of this change would be on the consumer.  The whole digestive tract evolved over many, many generations, certainly not in just a couple of generations. It would take 1,000 yrs or waaay more than that for change to happen. Human’s would not be able to adapt quickly for this huge change in their food source. Monsanto wasn’t concerned.  Elinor was.  Elinor said “Monsanto went from producing 5,000 loaves of bread per acre to 50,000 loaves of bread per acre! With our help! Uch!”. 

Chromosome changes and Gluten Sensitivity 

Elinor explained that there used to be a small percentage of people with gluten sensitivity.  Now we are seeing the results of this genetic change in wheat.  Gluten sensitivity causes inflammation and that can lead to leaky gut.  The immune system responds, white blood cells are elevated, the whole system begins crashing with white blood cells attacking everything including the self.  Allergies are triggered due to this cascade of events in the overreacting immune system.

In our latest conversation Elinor told me about a baby she has just diagnosed.  The family had fraternal twins, now 7 months old, who were not developing equally.  One twin, a little girl’s development caused her parents enough concern that they contacted Elinor for her special touch.  Could this be the normal variation in development in babies or was it something else?  What Elinor saw within 45 seconds of her arrival was a baby with a gluten sensitivity issue which had impacted her development.  

When Elinor first met her the little girl was held by her parent and her back was rounded.  Could this posture be because of the way the adult was holding her?  Next, the baby turned to look at Elinor, but she did not grow tall and use her back to turn and look.  It was another clue.  Her dad, who is knowledgeable about fitness, said “She does not have great tone, and when she sits she is curved and going to her left.  When she lifts her arms they tremble until she has them lifted.”  At this point Elinor was 85% sure she was seeing a nutritional deficiency.  Elinor did notice that the baby had beautiful skin, a good indicator of a good quality nervous system.

The baby had eaten 15 minutes before Elinor arrived so Elinor should be able to feel digestion happening. With her knowledge of specific organs Elinor can feel movement when she puts her hands on someone’s belly.  She felt the little girl’s viscera and discovered there was zero movement in the stomach.  She moved to the small intestine to see if that was working and felt nothing.  On questioning the parents, Elinor was told this baby only pooped every other day instead of the many diaper changes her sibling had.  Her feet also smelled “yeasty”, an indication to Elinor that the flora in the intestinal tract had already shifted to “bad” bacteria and yeast.  

Elinor explained that lack of motility in the intestinal tract will cause the contents to become stagnant.  Gluten isn’t the only cause of lack of motility but it’s a strong suspect.  Good bacteria need a flowing environment that is constantly receiving fresh nutrients and oxygen.  Bad bacteria grow in stagnant conditions much like we see in standing water vs. flowing water.  When bad bacteria increase, yeast increases, good bacteria die off and enzyme action is impaired.  This is called small intestinal bowel overgrowth (SIBO)  Without movement the intestinal lining is not as permeable and micronutrients cannot pass in or out of the intestine. 

Within 5 minutes of arriving Elinor was 99.9% sure this baby was vitamin B deficient due to gluten sensitivity.  The inability to be upright and the tremor before finding balance are not normal and directly relate to lack of B vitamin.  The mother asked how could this be when the other twin was fine?  

Elinor explained this case is not a genetic DNA issue, she suspected a chromosome cause.  Chromosomes can be altered in utero and after birth from external elements.  The mom could have been exposed to some chemical, used windex for cleaning, or any number of things we consider normal in our households.  For some reason one twin had damage to chromosomes and the other did not.  This breastfeeding mom loved wheat products and they had recently started both babies on cereal made with grain.  Allergies can be inherited, but with no history of allergies it indicates that this baby probably had chromosomal damage which was causing her to be gluten sensitive.  These chromosome changes can happen any time during a person’s life.  A developing baby cannot tolerate the deficiencies that an adult might be able to, but with an adult will eventually exhibit signs of deficiency as well.

DNA is also involved in a non-genetic way, Elinor explained.  Humans are born with an incredible length of DNA to direct their growth, development and function.  In addition to our bodies being regulated by our OWN DNA we have a symbiosis with the bacteria in our intestinal tract that helps to digest food, and THEIR DNA influences our function.  There are at least a few million cells of DNA in the normal gut flora. They might have more influence on our function than our own DNA does.  When the intestinal tract is inflamed these bacteria can’t survive and the influence disappears.  Instead the bad bacteria an yeast are influencing our systems.

Elinor stated that without good bacterial DNA, without the digestive enzymes, with disrupted absorption, a state of deficiency is created.  Essential fatty acids, the B vitamins, the minerals, and other nutrients are essential for processing in all of our body but, most significantly to a child with special needs, processing in the nervous system and brain.  Read more about this in the next article.

Elinor used the Feldenkrais way of touching and quiet listening to work with the baby’s viscera – such a light touch it almost looks like you are not doing anything.  The mother reported that within 1 hour of Elinor’s 15 minutes interaction with the baby she passed lots of stool.  Elinor’s recommendation was that this mom go completely off gluten while nursing, that she use potatoes and non-grains for her starch, and that the baby stop cereal.  She predicts that in 1 week the intestinal tract will turn around and that in 2 to 3 weeks this little girl will begin normal development.  She will have back the gift of her genetic inheritance from her healthy mom and dad and can grow to her full potential by making these changes.

Epigenetics 

A combined way that gluten sensitivity and chromosome changes can get progressively worse from one generation to the next is explained with epigenetics.  Epigenetics refers to heritable traits (over rounds of cell division and sometimes transgenerationally) that do not involve changes to the underlying DNA sequence.  Mechanisms can enable the effects of parents’ experiences to be passed down to subsequent generations.  These changes may remain through cell divisions for the remainder of the cell’s life and may also last for multiple generations.  wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epigenetics

Many genes are not active and methyl groups silence the genes that are not needed.   Elinor explains that environmental issues such as pesticides can change chromosomes and turn these genes on.  It is believed that these genes activated in a mother can be passed down to the next generation.  If each generation is being impacted by the environmental trigger such as an endocrine disruptor that affects hormones, then more and more chromosome changes may be passed on to each generation.  Without a DNA change there can be worsening of conditions that are hereditable.  

Permanent villi damage from gluten sensitivity

 Ellnor explained that once the intestinal tract has healed and SIBO is replaced by healthy bacteria people with as many as 70 allergies can go back to having the one or two that it is usual to have.  So, first, you need to remove the offending agents, then replace with good flora and start the healing. Now, that’s reliable! says Elinor.  You can also add probiotics to replace the flora and Elinor recommends the 500 mg of L-Glutamine for healing intestinal walls.  Unfortunately, the villi, the finger like projections lining the intestine which absorb nutrients and send them to the blood stream, cannot regrow.  Once they die there is reduced ability to absorb.  Elinor stressed that it is important to respond to signs of gluten sensitivity to avoid the condition worsening.  

 If gluten sensitivity is suspected Elinor suggests taking gluten out of the diet for awhile. Those with gluten sensitivity may be able to tolerate small amounts in time.  People with Celiac’s disease can never have gluten without further villi damage.  Elinor’s son was able to eat small amounts of gluten and test negative for gluten sensitivity in his blood tests in his teens.  College years brought more pizza and other things with gluten and his blood tests came back positive for gluten sensitivity.  He was able to revert to a healthy blood test by controlling his intake again.  Each person’s system can change based on what they are being exposed to.

Both constipation and diarrhea are indicators of an intestinal tract in distress.  Elinor said, an occasional episode might have a simple trigger but chronic constipation indicates a metabolic cause.  The first step is to eliminate gluten from the diet.  500 mg of L-glutamine given daily will help to heal the gut.  Within 3 to 4 days it will stop the diarrhea.  It comes in powder form and can be easily added to food.  That dose can be given to anyone from 50 lbs to adult.  If your child is less than 50 lb experiment with less and increase the amount until diarrhea stops.  When the gut calms the immune system can stop being so active and there will be a huge increase in the absorption of vitamins, minerals and nutrients.

There is a strong connection here for children with special needs.  Immune system activity and intestinal absorption is directly tied to the nervous system and brain.  

Future articles willI be about the prevalence of MTHFR mutation and it’s impact on children with special needs, spasticity in the gut and visceral work,  constipation and seizures, and Elinor’s recommendations for nutrient supplementation.

 

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Brain Gut Connection Part 2

 

Here is Part 1 of my understanding of the impact of metabolism and nutrition for special needs children based on my conversations with Elinor Silverstein.

In preparation for publishing this article I spoke with Elinor again today.  She is so excited to have this information being sent out to more parents and professionals. 

I worked with a young man who had severe torticollis, dystonia, apraxia and autism. We completely got him on the road to feeling better using this nutrition!” — Elinor Silverstein

A little about how Metabolism works

The process of absorbing, converting and using nutrients is metabolism.  When someone has a metabolic condition some part of the process is not working properly.  It could be the wrong food coming in, absorption being blocked by inflammation,   missing components for conversion, or inability to use the nutrients at the cellular level.

Elinor explains, ideally we would eat what we need and all food would be utilized for the keeping us at peak health and ability to do what we wish to.  Reality can be somewhat different.  Some nutrients are utilized in the form we take them in.  As long as they are actually in our food in adequate amounts and our ability to absorb them is functioning well they are simply put to use.  

What goes in

There are many articles available about the changing quality of our foods.  The nutritional value of our food has been altered in order to produce greater yields.  I’ll talk more about that later when I tell you what Elinor knows about the changes in gluten in wheat.  Just know that you can’t take for granted that the food you buy has all the nutrients you expect it to.

What gets used

Elinor explained what can happen when the intestinal tract is not healthy.  Absorption happens through the intestinal wall so it’s very important that it be in good shape.  Inflammation has a huge impact on the lining of our intestinal tract.  Inflammation is not being sick or injured.  It happens when our body believes the immune system needs to kick into action because something is there that should not be there.  An immune response brings white blood cells, and extra circulation.  When this happens in response to something we chronically eat the intestinal walls can begin to swell, villi that normally absorb nutrients become inactive or damaged, and over time, there can even be perforations in the intestinal wall leading to leaky gut syndrome.  Guess what? MORE stuff for the body to react to.  Nutrients are NOT supposed to be in the body cavity. Food allergies begin to appear for whatever is leaking into the abdomen.

More complex processes

The second way that nutrients are utilized is when they are absorbed and then converted through an enzyme action to become something useful, said Elinor.  If there is no enzyme then the conversion is not possible.  Sometimes nutrients are working together synergistically in these cycles to produced the required outcome.  The products of these cycles are not optional parts of our systems – these are necessities for further processes and for good health and functioning of all the cells and systems in our bodies.  

What goes out

Then there is the clean-up crew.  When these processes of conversion or the actual use of nutrients happen it generates some byproducts.  Byproducts plus toxins we consume or come into contact with through our lungs or skin all need to be eliminated from our bodies. We have the liver, kidneys and skin for this.  The liver uses methylation in the transsulfuration pathway to process out toxins.  (I promised Elinor I would use that sentence.  Google it for many links to more information.)  If toxins are not processed out of the liver they immediately exit the liver in to the blood stream, which in turns transports them to the brain and other tissues through the body, explained Elinor.  Toxins such as heavy metals deposited in the brain, heart and muscle tissues create the conditions that doctors have names for like high blood pressure, peripheral neuropathy, diabetes, and heart disease. 

The magic of methyl

What it means to you and I is that there is a good chance that the methyl form of supplements like B12 is useable while the other forms just make your blood tests look good and don’t go in to the cells.  More about that when Elinor discusses supplement recommendations.  

Disruption in the ability to produce the methyl piece are caused by a genetic anomaly.  It used to be considered rare.  Then it was considered more common place.  Elinor has tested hundreds of people for this gene anomaly and ONE did not have it.  The rest did.  We will go into more detail about the impact of this genetic change.

Next articles

Next I’ll cover gluten, supplement recommendations, genetic testing, and their relationship to children with special needs with disabilities such as autism, Torticollis, dystonia, ataxia, and cerebral palsy.

 

 

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The Brain Gut Connection

Dr Hyman is a functional medicine doctor who writes repeatedly about the impact of metabolism on health.  He helps many children and adults by addressing this foundation and making sure that their body has what it needs with supplements and tests to identify what is NOT working.  Tests for specific genes shifts can explain why some people are more likely to have deficiencies or mitochondrial disorder which affect their ability to produce energy or detoxify.

Here’s what Anat Baniel has to say about Dr. Hyman’s insights on her Facebook wall:

Let’s hope that more doctors will start seeing the individual!

“My work has always been based on getting the person and their entire system to work better, not on “treating pain” until it goes away. Someone may walk in with back pain and just want to make it go away, but in reality what needs to happen is that person’s whole system needs to find a better way of working as a whole in order to find solutions that don’t cause pain. Every thing that happens to a person is intricately linked to everything else about that person — which is why doctors should treat the person, and why I have always had a holistic view of people, their health, their needs, and my work!”

A New Era of Medicine has Finally Arrived

Dr. Hyman on nutrition and Autisim

brain-plasticity-practitioner

Here is an article with more detail about how this perspective can really impact the Autistic condition.  These ideas about necessary nutritients and metabolism does not just apply to children with autism.

Can Autism Be Cured?

 

 Elinor Silverstein on metabolism and nutrition

I’ve spoken extensively with Elinor Silverstein about this relationship between brain, body, and metabolism.   Elinor’s knowledge comes from her background as a scientist with Biology and Zoology majors, and Pre-med and Pre-vet minors from Cal Poly, training as a practitioner with Moshe Feldenkrais,  and her continuing study of nutrition, genetics and visceral health.  She has a unique ability to help children with special needs and is a huge resource for families and practitioners. Elinor spoke in detail about the gut-brain connection, the importance of methylization, and her nutritional recommendations.  I will be posting articles about our conversations soon.

 

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The beginning of our journey with our son who has CP

When I found out my son had cerebral palsy I had no idea what it was. I happened to be in the intensive care nursery having a quiet chat with my husband when two doctors walked in. Don’s little incubator was one of their stops. They didn’t know we were attached to him. One said to the other “oh yeah, he’ll have cerebral palsy”. Wow. We went across the street to a restaurant and stared across the table at each other. I remember asking Don’s dad “do you know what cerebral palsy is?” and he said he did not, but he had a friend in grade school who had been in a wheel chair and passed away after a few years. 

These were the days before internet so we had no ready resource to go to for information. You can bet we cornered Don’s pediatrician on his next visit and asked him what was going on. But we didn’t get much information. He said “They never should have said that. We have no way of knowing how things will turn out for Don”. That satisfied us in the moment and we eventually took our son home to enjoy his first months.

Babies don’t do much at 1, 2, and 3 months. When awake he was alert and seemed to be doing what my daughter had done. Yes he was a little stiff and we could successfully prop him up in standing…what can I say? We were new to this. I remember being heartbroken that I had to let him cry to sleep the first few weeks, but no matter what I did to comfort him I wasn’t helping. But lots of babies have trouble going to sleep, right? Now I know these are clues to damage in his brain.

At three months our pediatrician was not happy that his hands were still fisted tight with the thumbs inside. No diagnosis, but enough concern to send us to a Kaiser pediatric physical therapist. We learned to prop him up on his stomach. He was also arching back so well that he could roll himself from his tummy to his back. At Don’s 4 months old visit the pediatrician said “Well he’s not rolling over, of course”. “Yes he is” I was proud to say and Don demonstrated. That’s when we ended up referred to the state agency, California Children’s Services for therapy.  Ok.  Arching is NOT normal.

That poor therapist that did the intake for Don. She tested, wrote up her report, and called me in to let me know the results. When she said he had cerebral palsy she had no idea that I had never been told. Cue tears and LOTS of questions. She excused her self and practically ran out the door to get her supervisor. I remember asking “will he walk” “will he be able to play and have fun?” “will he live very long?”.  We were scheduled for occupational and physical therapy to start the next week.

Our first appointment was with two of the most amazing women, Mari Nomura and Christine Wright. These two observed my son and marveled at his intelligence just by seeing what he focused on and what he had accomplished so far. Yay! Finally something positive. Little did I know what good hands Don was in. These two led Don to be the youngest little guy ever to have ankle foot orthotics, a talking board, a walker, and a power wheelchair. He had all these things by 2 years old. Their can-do attitude modeled for me a way of approaching disability that formed our future.

Yes, I was majorly stressed, to the point it eventually ruined my health. It’s difficult to say I would do it any different. I would wish for other parents to be able to slow down and enjoy the moments more. To take more breaks, and come back refreshed. But it feels like war. I was battling the limitations imposed by the disability, the school district, the doctors, and the finances. I was described by someone as a mother bear protecting her young. When you are at war you rally all resources. The problem with this war is that it went on for a very long time.  My personal resources were eventually exhausted. Thank goodness not until my children were almost grown.

I am so happy today to see both of my children grown and enjoying the lives they have chosen to live. That is the biggest gift I could give to them both; to try to make sure that they got to choose their paths. They both gained and I did too. I learned so many things along this journey and now have a career spending my time doing something I love. 

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Sleepless?

I’m posting this here because many children with special needs have greater difficulty in calming themselves and quieting their brain enough to sleep. This article has some good resources for helping children learn to settle their own systems and get to sleep on their own. Annie Tucker Morgan references Richard Ferber, the director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children’s Hospital in Boston. 

One of the benefits of ABM that parents most often report is having their children start to sleep through the night even after just one lesson.

See website here:
http://www.divinecaroline.com/22108/86906-rock-a-bye-baby–sleep-training-work- 

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